Poltergeists: Week of January 23, 2017

Michael

Emptiness - “Digging the Sky”

Emptiness is an extremely odd combination of all of the genres that make up my regular catalog of to-listen releases - the guitars are clean and shoe-gazing-ly atmospheric, the vocals are destructive and experimental, and the overall sound goes between sad doom metal and a more realized version of early 2000s gothic rock. This record is fittingly produced by Jeordie White, of Marilyn Manson fame, and Sean Beavan, who has recorded with NIN, Marilyn Manson, and Kindneythieves. Each song is unique and very odd - the vocal delivery is generally the same, but still unique against the strange landscape of each track as it passes through many styles and influences.    

Emptiness is an experimental band from Brussels.

Apocryphal Throne - “Triumph Over the Backs of the Downtrodden”

Apocryphal Throne, a new project that I hope Chase Dobson will continue making new releases for every year until the day he dies, is an apt meditation in modern atmospheric metal (not entirely black metal, not entirely doom metal, but a good combination of many types). The influences are vast and wonderful, the production is clean, and it is presented within a snowy, winter landscape. This album proves to me that Chase is a talented and inspirational musician - taking a genre that is not his current medium and just running with it is not an easy thing to do, but The Day of Our Demise proves that he very much can. It is presented without vocals but you almost don’t notice because the segments of the songs flow well enough together to create the bigger structure of the songs.

Apocryphal Throne is the solo project of Chase Dobson, who has also released IDM stuff I guess (C.DB.SN released one album on the now defunct Tympanik Audio label that is also very good, and you should check out).

 

Avi Roig

Avi is a former blogger and musician who lives in Washington and is awesome!

Ştiu Nu Ştiu - “October”

The majority of post-rock/metal/gaze fails me on two main principles. Firstly, despite the promise of grandiosity and bombast, the style so rarely achieves true heaviness; for all the bands that set their sights on the mountaintop, very few manage to cross over to the other side. Second, and most importantly, the standard template of build and release remains a poor stand-in for actual songcraft, even when augmented by an armada of effects pedals. Sweden's Ştiu Nu Ştiu defies the status quo by deploying actual riffs and composition, engineering the toms to thunder like timpani and by not shying away from dual guitar heroics that would make the Scorpions proud. The traditional hallmarks of the genre remain at the core, but fold in Billie Lindahl’s fragile, alien vocals and a predilection for chaos and noise over orchestrated soundscapes and the result exceeds far beyond all the usual expectations. The final coda of “October” is the grand highlight, a superb and glorious din and by far one of the most triumphant moments of music in recent memory.

 

Brant Showers

Brant is the mastermind behind all of my favorite projects and an Audiotrauma label mate!

Dolor - “Zero Dead Channel”

After heavily listening to Dolor’s album, Gun City, throughout all of last year (and SISTER the year before), I was extremely excited to learn that he’d be kicking of 2017 with a new album as well. Dropped somewhat unceremoniously on January 4th, the new album includes some interesting changes to Dolor’s sound palette. Bridging from his usual hazy, dusk-hour electronics, Ruby delivers the listener into rich, acidic sunsets and synthetic soundscapes in a way that seems perhaps a bit more self-indulgent than has been previously expressed through Dolor’s work. This doesn’t deter in any way from the album’s great qualities though - to the contrary, as many long-time fans will be more than happy to allow for the notoriously private artist to reflect on his more personal musings. To that end, the inclusion of the description, “this one’s for me,” is an appropriate sentiment to forgive the album’s more exorbitant synth explorations (especially as on the twelve minute ‘Reppin, Reppin’’).

One of the immediate and recognizable changes to Dolor’s production is the absence of engineering by his oft-collaborator, Lorn. For those familiar with Lorn’s specific sonic qualities, his absence will quickly explain the change in tone of this album from Dolor’s previous releases. It’s a bit unfair to place so much responsibility on Lorn’s involvement, but could also point to a specific stylistic decision made by Dolor in distancing himself from Lorn on this particular album. Either way, despite its departures, Ruby still maintains plenty of the unique traits that characterize Dolor’s music and will definitely satisfy his long-time fans. The track ‘Zero Dead Channel’ is a perfect example of prime Dolor material - saturated synth-work, beautifully distant percussive elements, and haunting leads.

Ruby may not evoke the same lush nostalgia as previous releases, but it’s an incredible way to start of the new year and stands strong in maintaining Dolor as an absolute favorite of mine. I’m excited to hear him explore new ideas and look forward to listening to this through the rest of 2017 (and on).

Episode 73 - Michael and Wes

This week we sat down to talk with... wait, this can't be right - this is just our names! It looks like we sat down to talk to each other! This must be because of the cataclysmic snow Portland has been getting.

We took questions from the Telekon Slack channel, leading to conversations about what the podcast has taught us about creativity, what music we're looking forward to this year, and why cats so good (we were split on this last one).

You can find Talking To Ghosts on Facebook and Twitter!

Poltergeists: Week of January 9, 2017

Michael

Mesarthim - “Type III”

Epic, depressive, symphonic with space imagery and synthesizers? Yeah, I’ll take some of that, please. Bandcamp did a great article on Mesarthim wherein the band expressed the need for imagery and emotion in their music. Space and its void became a recurring theme in their music, and I think that it definitely lends an interesting angle to the sound that is well within a set wheelhouse, but specifically its own. The grand nature of the guitar sounds mixed with the choirs and synths lower in the background makes a very full composition of both large halls of reverb and emptiness. In the breaks, where the guitars are gone, and maybe just a piano is playing, you can really see the many talents of the duo.

Type II (E.P.) is one of many releases available on the Mesarthim Bandcamp page.

Mortiis - “En Mørk Horisont”

Mortiis, who I will always associate with great industrial songs like “Marshland” and “Spirit in a Vacuum,” has re-issued his first few albums on Bandcamp, and they are wonderful. It is a really fascinating look at the type of dungeon synth music that was coming out in the early 1990s. Many of the dungeon synth elements would, of course, make it onto intro tracks and various filler elements on notable black metal albums of the time, but to hear a full composition of those influences is, to me, very interesting. There is a mysticism that I apply to the sounds, which I understand is completely fabricated by me, but it makes me nostalgic for the forest and the darkness. This is, in a sense, the root of the music that I aim to make now, even if I have only heard it for the first time this week.  

Mortiis has put up a lot of the early work in various limited edition forms on his Bandcamp page. These releases are also available digitally for the first time.

Wes

Niels Poensgen - “Divara”

I came across this track trolling the Berlin tag on Bandcamp, looking for that ebm/techno crossover sound I love so much. While “Divara” doesn’t cross over into the EBM world, there is a nice emotion to the track that puts it right into my wheelhouse. The building bass and rolling, filtered horns produce a nice sense of almost otherworldliness, and it never feels like it’s trying to go too big or too epic for that sort of reserved emotionality. It is a song that seems to set rules for itself, and creates something wonderful within those rules.

Niels Poensgen is a techno artist from Berlin, Germany. His latest release, Divara, is available via Keller on Bandcamp.

Roly Porter - “4101”

Ambient and drone music doesn’t often tend to grab me. There’s usually something about it that I find hard holding on to. This is not the case with Roly Porter. There’s something demanding in his music. There is a constant tension, a feeling of impending doom almost, that forces you to pay attention to it. It builds up as quickly as it releases, creating a rhythm in the soundscapes of the song that much ambient I hear lacks for me.

The soundscapes are impressive, too. There is so much thought clearly put into the design of this track; there is building vocal samples, little mechanical clicks in the background, little ringing instruments whose providence is unclear. All these sounds combine beautifully to produce that sense of tension and doom. I can easily listen to this track over and over, trying to pick out all of the little details that make it so successful for me.

Roly Porter is an electronic artist from the UK. His latest release, Third Law, is available via Tri-Angle Records on Bandcamp.

Poltergeists: Week of December 26, 2016

Michael

AmeshA SpentA - “Faces”

The depth of this song is crazy. There are so many little elements in the background, especially in the beginning of the song, that stand out so clearly. Sébastien Béné-Le Touarin is a very talented producer and almost every track on the new AmeshA SpentA album, Simplexity, shows that he can compose really beautifully perfected masterpieces. “Faces” is the track that I would choose to show anyone what the entire album sounds like because I think that this one track contains so many wonderful parts that play out in more depth throughout the album. The way that it progresses from this kind of slow breakbeat mashup of plucking strings and subtle shifts in the rhythms to this giant guitar-driven conclusion is incredible. It gets really heavy at the end, but still maintains its clear, subtle nature and that is something that is really hard to do.

AmeshA SpentA is the solo work of the French composer Sébastien Béné-Le Touarin. The new album, Simplexity, is out now on Audiotrauma Records.

Von Magnet - “Growing vs. Fading”

I am late to the Von Magnet party and I am extremely sorry about that! I was searching through some of the older Ant-Zen releases this week and was drawn in by the artwork for Von Magnet’s ni prédateur ni proie: two hands clasped together with black paint dripping from them -- which seems simple, but is very beautifully done. The opening track, “Growing vs. Fading,” is chaotic and compelling in that it contains a lot of call-and-response type vocal exchanges between Phil Von and Flore Magnet. These escalate from just talking softly to each other to a dramatic calling out, switching to an English vs. French dialogue, and then back again to English entirely. It is extremely effective. The music that also escalates under this exchange is subtle and equally epic. Minimal drumming and atmospheric droning pass through a number of variations and additions. There are pauses in the songs that act as false endings, only to come back through again with more elements added.

Von Magnet is a collective project that has gone through a number of variations and incarnations in their long and obscure career. I would suggest going through all of their material, but I started with their 2008 album ni prédateur ni proie, which is up on the Ant-Zen Bandcamp page.

Wes

M‡яc▲ll▲ - “Faceted”

It just wouldn’t be right to let a new M‡яc▲ll▲ release go by unnoticed! M‡яc▲ll▲ continues to build on their past work, making small incremental changes to their presentation and sound. In “Faceted” we can hear almost what feels like a return to a more classic M‡яc▲ll▲ sound; fast moving synth lines, backed up by equally fast bass and shuffling kicks and hats push the song into a level of aggressiveness that I don’t typically associate with M‡яc▲ll▲, but it works very well. We have vocals again from M‡яc▲ll▲, vocoded and obscuring the still mysterious person behind the music. The song evolves quickly over the course of its seven minute playtime, making tonal switches at just the right moments and never becoming boring to listen to.

M‡яc▲ll▲ is a project of the post-witch house diaspora. You can find their latest release, Aberrant Symmetry, on their Bandcamp.

Cursive - “Staying Alive”

I have been listening to Cursive’s The Ugly Organ a ton over the past couple weeks. “Staying Alive” I think captures a lot of what I love about the album; from the twinkling guitars at the beginning of the track, to the noisy, chaotic center, there is always a feeling of raw emotionality, barely contained, always ready to explode. In the end, the cellos sawing gently under the refrain, “The worst is over”, signal a return to the songs early lightness. It’s a beautiful track that I can listen to over and over without ever getting tired of it.

Cursive is a post-hardcore band from Omaha, Nebraska. Their latest album, a re-issue of The Ugly Organ, is available from Saddle Creek.

Episode 71 - Scott Kelly

This week on Talking to Ghosts we talk with Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Corrections House, and Mirrors Of Psychic Warfare! We chatted about starting Neurosis in the time of thrash metal, working on Mirrors For Psychic Warfare with Sanford Parker, and composing a soundtrack to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2016 production of “Hamlet.” Scott has many tour dates coming up with Neurosis, as well as a Mirrors For Psychic Warfare European Tour!

The play mentioned by Scott in this episode is called “Ruined” and was written by Lynn Nottage. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

You can find Talking To Ghosts on Facebook and Twitter

Download this episode

Poltergeists: Week of December 12, 2016

Michael

Markus Midnight - “Blutgeld”

Synth-Punk is one of my favorite emerging genres. It may be something that has been around forever, but it is new to me and I am excited about it. Markus Midnight may not fit exactly into the synth-punk movement, but his music has that catch and raw feeling to it that so many bands in that genre provoke. “Blutgeld” is a solid dance song with weird and catchy synths crossing in and out of the track, keeping it interesting and moving forward. This track reminds me a lot, vocally, of the first TR/ST album, which I think will play to its advantage.

Markus Midnight is a solo project from Edmonton, Alberta and you can find his stuff on the Markus Midnight Bandcamp.

Noire Antidote - “Slow Macabre”

Out next week on Audiotrauma Records is the new album from Noire Antidote. The mixture of dark, witchhouse-inspired atmosphere and a raw future bass element has me hooked already. The sounds are deep and intense in this track, reminding me of the kind of oddity that projects like Sonic Area and Twinkle would bring into their darker tracks. I sometimes have trouble with projects that have no vocal element, but the two preview tracks from this album are both consistently interesting and ever-changing enough to keep me fully on board.

The new album from Noire Antidote, I Know Where The Wolf Sleeps, is out on December 19th via Audiotrauma Records.

Wes

Sometimes Never - “The Dead”

“The Dead” is a fantastic track from Sometimes Never’s Enter Terrible. I’ve listened to the full release many times since I discovered it, and every single time, its closer, this track, stands out to me. It often feels simple and minimalistic in the first half of the 13 minute playtime; two or three instruments at a time pluck along with digital choirs providing a calming backdrop.

The song has four sort of movements to it - it starts with the slowly plucking synth who’s delay creates kind of a chord effect, backed up by the aforementioned choir-like pads. From there, it moves into a section that is a little darker in tone - a repeating bassline with little tonal movement is supplemented by pads creating the melody; then later, little plucking synths gently move in adding a feeling of hopefulness. This pulls us into the third movement, where for the first time we have percussion - a kick sets the beat while a arpeggiated bassline pulls us along with it. At the end, in the final movement, all the pieces start to become tied together. The starting synth comes back, plucking away behind the beat, the pads. It is a fantastically constructed song that I can listen to over and over, finding new little things each time.

Sometimes Never is a synth project that appears to be from Bristol,UK. Their latest release, Enter Terrible, is available on Bandcamp.

Lebanon Hanover - “Babes Of The 80s”

I don’t know how I missed this when it first came out. I have been a fan of Lebanon Hanover’s more post-punk oriented works, and while this track feels like it is from the same band, it leans much more heavily on synth components than their last album, Besides The Abyss. In place of the chorus soaked guitars and chunky bass guitar, we have moving pads and plucking synth. It is a fun little song that makes me want to slowly dance around; the short, sharp plucks create a nice, almost jaunty beat you can’t help but move your head to.

Lebanon Hanover is a cold wave duo from Germany. Their latest album, Besides The Abyss, is available on Bandcamp.

Poltergeists: Week of November 28, 2016

Michael

Weak Wrists - “Wither”

Weak Wrists is a combination of two of my favorite music genres, which has been accurately coined “emoviolence” (emo/screamo and powerviolence). “Wither” features some of the great elements bands like Oathbreaker and Fvnerals brought to my previous Poltergeists: powerfully chaotic sections, a break into more structured aggression, a wonderful breakdown with clean and mournful vocals, and a great chant at the end. The self-titled debut is a well-balanced mix of intense tracks like “Trail Stained” or “Leave,” which come in at 44 and 28 seconds respectively, and tracks that give the album atmosphere and space like “The Weight” or “In The Tangled Branches,” where time is set aside for the quiet and clean moments. It has a great impact on the album’s layout.     

Weak Wrists is an emoviolence band from North Carolina. Their self-titled debut is out now on their Bandcamp page digitally.

Chrysalide - “All Demons”

Chrysalide has been a perpetual source of influence and solace, especially in times like these. I recently went back and listened to Don’t Be Scared, It’s About Life and Personal Revolution back to back, which I highly recommend for anyone who has not heard these albums, or if it has been a while and you’ve forgotten what they sound like. “All Demons” was the first track that I heard from Personal Revolution (because the promo copy I received digitally from the PR company was in alphabetical order) and it was a jarring but compelling transition from the tracks on Don’t Be Scared, It’s About Life. There are trap and other modern electronic music elements mixed with a pointed and very personal message, which prevails throughout the entire album. I don’t think there has been an album, or band, that has more accurately echoed my own views or experience overall. Tracks like “It Gets in the Blood” and “I Had a Dream” are so personal and seemingly secretive testimonials. It is really something special and great.    

Chrysalide is a noise industrial project from France and all of their albums are the best, end of story. You can get their music directly from their label, Audiotrauma Records.

Wes

Nico Muhly, Nadia Sirota - “Viola Concerto Part. I”

Dipping into classical music can sometimes be a nice break from the musical realms I normally operate in. To that end, this release that I found through Bandcamp Daily exemplifies all the things I love about classical music that I find missing from much of the other music I listen to.

This concerto starts out so beautifully; the swells and pizzicato combine to build a feeling not dissimilar from waking up. Over the course of the song the dynamic range is quite broad - there are moments of relative quiet and calm that are interrupted by bombastic stanzas filled with horns and percussion. The song is a story told in its sounds, the way the violin moves, the way the bass swells. It is a fantastic reminder of the things that music can do.

Nico Muhly is a contemporary classical composer; Nadia Sirota is a viola player and member of Alarm Will Sound, a chamber orchestra from New York. Their collaboration, Keep In Touch, can be found on the Bedroom Community’s Bandcamp.

Ganser - “Strategies for Living”

On such a good release, it was hard to pick just one song to write about. “Strategies for Living” is a fantastic piece. Starting with chunky basses and chaotic guitars, the song has a feeling of unease - a feeling accented by the soft buzz and squelching in the background. That feeling of unease gives way to a more direct aggression as the song fully kicks in. The vocals float above the mix, pulling back on that aggression just a little bit, creating a mood that I can’t quite define. “Strategies for Living” is a good example of how This Feels Like Living differs from Ganser’s earlier Audrey; where Audrey felt a little more classic post-punk with chorused guitars and floaty pads, This Feels Like Living feels far more driven by its guitar work.

Ganser is a four-piece post-punk group out of Chicago. Their latest release, This Feels Like Living, is available on their Bandcamp.